Hey, Let’s Go To The Garden Center!

I can save you a lot of time right here if you just read this summary instead of slogging through all the following words until the end:

I take years to plan things out just so for in my landscape design keeping true to my vision of the final appearance. My husband doesn’t even think about the garden except to suggest pruning beautiful mature growth at the peak of its beauty with a chain saw and to declare that he doesn’t want anything “hanging over”. And so when confronted with actual plant placement, he develops an instant unalterable opinion about what should be and why my plan is wrong.

That’s really all you need to know, but do read on if you care about the details.

I should also say that he’s a bit worried about me because I’ve recently taken to sleeping 18 out of every 24 hours and that’s why when after my morning nap I idly suggested we go out together to look for bird baths, he was enthusiastically for it. Not for the shared garden center adventure but more for getting me out into the fresh air.

Well, heading for a garden center on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the affluent central NJ suburbs. What could go wrong? I won’t bore you with the parking spot wars but suffice to say that the skinnier the snooty bitch driving, the bigger the SUV. It never matters if you’re right or wrong because unless you are in the SUV, you are going to lose anyway.

Once parked, we entered my favorite nurse center in search of the perfect birdbath and perhaps one or two yellow Knock Out Roses. We had to pass the fountain display first and Sami is nothing but a sucker for fountains. They had something for everyone: Tuscan-like, Woodsy/Fairy-like, big wet balls,  jugs flowing into other jugs. But here is one that I bet will remain unsold the entire season:

This is a family of meerkats in living color scanning the horizon for danger lurking amongst the pansy pots, I guess.

The thing was about 4 feet tall, and unless I miss my guess about the popularity of meerkats in Monmouth County, destined for the clearance section sooner rather than later. Also, we must have missed the memo to bring your little dog  out shopping with you today.

We are not impressed, lady. We had a neighbor that had 3 of these that he would take on pre-dawn walks down to the street light in front of our house and let them dump. Hey, why don't you go find that skinny bitch what took my parking space?

So. We visited 3 garden centers and looked at all of the BBs.

  • The first place had a large selection of shiny ceramic ones and they were beautiful and on sale for only $49.00. I did make a mental note to circle back for a charming celadon green one with the crackle finish if we didn’t see anything better.  We both agreed this would be a good thing to have in the new rose bed.
  • The second place was one of those open field, dirt and gravel staging areas for giant tiered fountains, lion pairs and the occasional concrete mermaid and sea captain. There were a few reasonably priced birdbaths and they were all concrete which is my favorite. They were all acceptable but none were thrilling until I spotted a squat little concrete tree stump with a concrete nest on top of it where three fat concrete birds perched. It was perfect except that it was only half the width and half the height of what I had in mind. I still liked it but Sami developed a psychic pain between his shoulder blades that told him that if I didn’t get 100% of what I wanted, we’d be bird bath shopping again next year.
  • Finally, the schmancy horse-country garden center  with a big selection of clay, concrete, resin and ceramic baths. They were all three times the price of the other places and hard to get to because you had to squeeze around the bronze horse statues to get to them. We were on the way out when we spotted hidden in some flowering shrubs a single bird bath, cast concrete, that had an attractive  nickle-sized overall pebble pattern molded  into it. It was marked down from $189.00 to $29.00 and Sami declared it was the best we had seen all day AND NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE PRICE EITHER.

We had a car full of rose bushes so we went home, but on the way, someone made a decision and we turned the car around to buy one of the birdbaths mentioned above. Which one do you think it was?

FYI – we spent the evening locked in hot debate about whether the new rose bushes should be planted in a symmetrical arc or an asymmetrical pattern. No clear winner here yet.

UPDATE: 8:30pm  After dinner and a mild dust-up about improper use of oregano in a salad, I’m sitting in the front room reading and I hear him rattling around in the closet looking for a jacket. He’s off to his customary Burger King visit for the nightly cup of 38¢ senior citizen coffee. He opens the front door and takes a step forward, then leans back in and says: “Hey! I enjoyed our shopping trip together today!” and starts laughing  like a bastard. I can hear him laughing after the door closes and he walks down the driveway.

March Of The Lobsters

Those who still follow CripesSuzette on twitter already know that I made killing, valance-wise, at Christmas Tree Shops yesterday. Lobsters!  2 for $5.00! Can’t beat that with a stick.

come on shake your body baby do the conga

Turns out they’re more Big Top Circus than Lobster Parade but I am digging them anyway. Sami does not like. Act surprised.

First of all, you can’t just spring anything on him – he needs time to adjust to changes. Secondly, he has no color boldness about him so this is a very extreme choice. Although he really didn’t squawk about the center-stripe yellow walls, so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe “color confidence” is a better term.

He has no color confidence. Case in point: his car was on life support for at least 3 years and he finally gave in an treated himself to a new used car. He told me it was blue but our son told me it was lavender. For the few days between purchase and pick up, he was considering cancelling the deal and getting a white one. This is what he brought home:

The Twitter poll verdict says blue and it’s actually quite pleasant to look at, but he’s still asking me if this this is a girly color. So OF COURSE he can’t process Lobster Circus curtains in bold colors.

But the 10 bucks worth of curtains that I just hung up are just right for the summer. They’d never survive a washing to stay up longer anyway. Maybe I’ll get one of those big red claw pot holders to liven things up around here even further.

Kitchen lobsters are the new kitchen roosters.

Portrait Of A Creek Project In The Morning


There’s A Hole In My Heart Where The Claw Machine Used To Be

Sunlight On Pipe And Wheelbarrow, c. 2012

Early Tuesday monring, shortly after I captured it on film for the most recent update here, the claw machine was taken away. Stealth recon by one of my neighbors, via her kitchen window, revealed that once the creek workers got a load of what they were up against, they realized they missed one crucial element.

The plan called for excavation of dirt and stump, filling in with dirt to make a temporary roadway for the equipment in the creek bed, and laying in of gabion. The thing is, this isn’t really a creek. It’s a runoff of storm drains higher in the hills. There’s almost always water trickling gently through it and it looks very peaceful even bucolic most of the time. And then the rains come and the water, driven by precipitation and gravity, leaps to the top of the banks and takes away the dirt with it. Which is what we have been complaining about and what is making our shed teeter on a Wiley Coyote-type precipice.

And so the creek workers realized that this is spring and the rain doth fall and whatever dirt they filled in would wash away and  flood their creek-bottom equipment. It’s quite deep – more of a ravine than a creek so whatever machines go down, stay down until the project is completed. Or until they wash away.

So the plan now is to hook up this temporary plastic pipe to the gaping maw of the concrete runoff pipe and divert the waterflow farther ahead of where the work is happening. Sounds reasonable yes but I don’t see how they are going to connect that thin black tube to the behemoth concrete drain pipe. That’s their business, I guess. My business is to keep you all up to speed on the creek project.

Here’s A Good Excuse To Showcase Some China

Luci Baines Johnson donating $1 million toward new Wildflower Center project

Today, Luci Baines Johnson is making good on her mother’s love of nature and Texas. Johnson and her husband, Ian Turpin, are donating $1 million toward the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s next big project: a family and children’s garden. “Mother’s dream was that the Wildflower Center would inspire future generations to care for and take care of the environment,” Johnson said.

And did you know that the Johnson While House china was decorated with America’s wildflowers? And that Lady Bird cared about it so much that she

Lady Bird Johnson and her staff worked very closely with Tiffany and Company of New York City on the design and the china was manufactured by Castleton China, Inc. Mrs. Johnson combined her main cause, beautification and conservation of the country’s landscape with the history of White House china. The pieces feature the eagle motif first designed for the Monroe china, and the porcelain was decorated with wildflowers found throughout the United States. There were over forty different wildflowers represented on different pieces of china. Again with a tribute to nineteenth century history, she had dessert plates made featuring the state flower of each fifty states. The floral decals on original dessert plates did not meet Mrs. Johnson’s final approval, so the flower designs were hand painted on each plate, delaying the completion of the china until the summer of 1972.” Party Politics,  firstladies.org

le sigh

Yes, I’ve written about this before but it is most definitely most repeat-worthy. I quote myself:

“Anyway, Lady Bird Johnson. She gave the impression of being a total cream puff, but was able to impose floral patterned china with a girly yellow background on old Lyndon. Even Nancy Reagan couldn’t do that and Ronnie was totally whipped.”

MTM Style: Dish Towels

I would like to know who at the Hallmark Channel decided to pull the plug on the Mary Tyler Moore Show after just two glorious weeks? And right when I was in the middle of an important study of Mary Richards’ dish towels. I’m sorry that this is going to have to go forward with only a minimal amount of photographic support, but go forward it must.

We only get brief glimpses of Mary’s kitchen as her at-home dialog moves the plot line forward. I record the episodes overnight and then watch them in the early morning, just me and my coffee cup.  After I watch them through, I fast forward looking for something that supports my latest research focus. The pattern of 90% of the episodes is this: office-home-office. Occasionally, we see and all-office episode or an all-home episode, but most times you can count on the OHO formula. That’s how I knew it would be easy to locate and study the dish towels hanging in the kitchen.

I ran across an interesting article that describes the design philosophy behind Mary’s apartment layout and design. Read the whole article – it’s quite interesting and complete with shopping links to recreate the look  – but the gist is this: the apartment had to look like it was a reasonable rent and decor for a low-level office girl of the times, and the furniture and accessories evolved according to Mary’s taste as she became more confident and prosperous.

Now Mary Richards was a French Provincial girl at heart. As the years went on, more and more FP-influenced design could be found in her decor choices – the off-white chairs on the upper landing in front of that famous window, the shift in the wall art to French Impressionists and finally the abandonment of the funky country-style dining set in favor of an mid/upper level cherry FP dining suite in her later high rise apartment.

But who knew that the dish towels held the key to the style future of MTM?

I noticed in the early episodes (the few that I studied) that the dish towels were plain and utilitarian. Plain white flour sack with a  yellow or green sets of off-center stipes. Soon, the simple graphics of the times made an appearance.

Dare I call these Vera? They look very Vera - she was a fan of nautical things done in a minimal number of colors. The background isn't quite right though.

This shot of the kitchen is rare for two reasons -1.  it’s shot from inside the kitchen instead of outside in the dining area looking in and 2. even more rare is the orange and yellow shakers (candles?) set on the counter instead of up on the towel rack.

By the time the famous Veal Prince Orloff episode rolled around, Mary was rocking some misguided CAT DISH TOWELS of a vibrant hue.

Sorry for the crappy photo quality. I'm using a stopped DVD recording and a crappy Blackberry camera. Like most fleeting dish towel glimpses, they make only a very brief appearance on the screen. But rest assured, those are a pair of vibrantly colored cats.

[Can you name the dessert that followed the Veal Prince Orloff without looking on Google? I know it by heart.]

This piece started out as a study of Mary’s evloution in terms of wall art. I was heartbroken when she removed the original print by a famous Lithuanian-American artist that shared a wall with the famous M and replaced it with a Lautrec  but I suppose it was in keeping with Mary’s evolution towards FP. Then in one taped episode, I noticed a fleeting glimpse of something almost familiar handing on that towel rack.


This/these towels appear in most epsidoes of this season – 2 side by side , or one janutnily slung over the rod. At first, I thought it might be a louche dangling purple shoe, but when an unobstructed shot  of both side by side was filmed, well….

... aaaaand there it is. The black stocking.

It’s one of the the Lautrec posters called  Jane Avril. I wondered if such a glorious thing as a French Impressionist dish towel was still available. Nothing came up until I searched for “tea towel”.  Of course. Mary Richards would be in possession of a tea towel. Say hello to my little friend:

Etsy, you magnificent bastard.

And there we have it – a limited but still revealing look at the dish towels of the Mary Tyler Moore show.

The Claw Has Had A Sleepover Party With A DumpTruck Full Of Rocks

Good morning, big claw bull dozer machine.  I see we’re going to become well acquainted. Thanks for adding a special something to the neighborhood. I wasn’t enough that the creek now has easy access since the fencing was torn away but now all the 10 year old boys are really going to appreciate having an unlocked, unattended piece of heavy equipment to climb into every evening once the workers go home at 5pm on the dot. The LookyLoos will be quite entertained as well. In fact, they’ll probably linger. And those nice big rocks! I wonder which direction they’ll be thrown when the boys get tired of trying to turn the claw machine on?

Showers Of Emergency Vehicles

The bridal shower was on Saturday and good luck was on our side. It was sunny and beautiful and the restaurant set us up in this charming private booth at the White Dog Cafe that was just the right size. The restaurant site photo doesn’t convey how dark it was or reveal the fact that the floor was glass block.

The booth was really dark and a mellow light from a dungeon or possibly the kitchen in the basement was shining up through the blocks. that velvet fabric swagged from the ceiling was very lush and looked like it was completely stuffed. The Crystal drop chandelier had a pair of glass cherries on a joined stem at each corner.

The street was narrow and very congested with Sunday traffic and we thought we’d have a problem parking, but when we finally got ourselves pointed in the correct one-way oreintation, this is what we saw:

None of the other restaurants on this charming street needed emergency services so I can only conclude that Irish cooking is the most dangerous cooking there is.

We slowly rolled up the street until we got boxed in by a police car on the side and a full-sized fire engine from behind. Someone must have determined that the fire engine wasn’t needed so it backed down the street past us again. That gave us plenty of time to determine that we were actaully in a legit parking space. You don’t want to mess around with parking in Philly, home of Parking Wars and the boot. That was the end of the excitement for the day – everything else went smoothly.

The food, by the way, was amazing. I apologize for making fun of the local farm thing – this place was one of the originators of that concept. The wait staff let us sit there for 4 hours without making us feel rushed at all and the bill was very reasonable. I had the Crab & Spinach Benedict and them some Rhubarb Crisp for dessert and  it was all perfect. It wasn’t on the menu but they also gave me a delicately dressed side salad of watercress and roasted grape tomatoes.

There were a lot of dog-themed things around the restaurant – statues, vases, paintings. The restrooms were those quirky Philly-style single unisex rooms. I was already ensconced in the POINTERS before  realized that I was a SETTER. There were also rooms marked REPUBLICANS and DEMOCRATS but I was  afraid to even open those doors. Who knows what goes on there? It was, after all, Philadelphia. I might have ended up stuffed in a ballot box.